By Juliet Wittman
This is an excerpt from Westword’s “The Best Work in Denver Theater in 2019.” For the complete list of Westword’s “The Best Work in Denver Theater” in 2019 visit Westword
Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical
Finalists: Carmen Vreeman Shedd, Once, Miners Alley; Megan McGuire, Chicago, Phamaly
Winner: Megan McGuire
Pretty blond Roxie in Chicago shot her boyfriend because he was a jerk and she was tired of him, anyway. The boyfriend was abusive, but we didn’t feel too sorry for Roxie, because she was a mean and calculating little minx and — as played with sass and charm by Megan McGuire —could clearly take care of herself. Having sashayed into a women’s prison, Roxie used her notoriety to become famous as a chanteuse, and McGuire brought a glittering, sexy energy to all her numbers.
A big touring production of Once came through town this year; one of my problems with show was that I didn’t believe for a minute that their Girl was actually Czech. This made the repeated joke “I’m always serious. I’m Czech” sound more snidely parodistic than funny. But in the Miners Alley version, Carmen Vreeman Shedd owned the role. I really couldn’t tell if her understated but convincing accent was entirely accurate, because she was so charming and she sang and played the piano so beautifully that the cranky old critic in my head, the one that’s always looking for flaws, simply subsided, muttering into the shadows. As well he should have.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical
Winner: Leonard Barrett, Chicago, Phamaly
A jazz singer with an extraordinary focus and energy and a style all this own, Leonard Barrett is a local treasure. He’s also one of the most generous and open-hearted performers around — you can tell from the way he works with fellow artists on stage. As corrupt lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago, Barrett displayed a fast-flashing variety of voices and expressions. He was sometimes a little reminiscent of Jim Carrey and at other times more of Robin Williams, but at all times his singing was fabulous.
See all of Juliet Wittman’s “Best of Denver Theater in 2019”